Stats good through Wednesday, May 26, 2010
So, what to make of Adrian Cardenas?
Cardenas is a 22-year-old with significant Triple-A experience, so he's ahead of the age curve, which is nice. Cardenas is also a career .295/.359/.408 hitter, which isn't too shabby. However, he is only a career .243/.305/.341 Triple-A hitter, so he certainly isn't ready for the majors yet.
Before I take a look at what sort of player Cardenas can become, I'm going to quickly take a look at his Triple-A stats and see what's going wrong for the infielder. The good news is that Cardenas has only struck out 44 times in 76 games, and he has a decent 44/24 K/BB ratio in that span. The big problem with Cardenas in Triple-A is that he's hitting too many balls on the ground. When he hit .326 in Double-A last year, he hit grounders on about 50.3% of his contact. That ballooned to 58.4% in Triple-A last year and 62.8% this year.
Cardenas isn't slow by any means, but he's never stolen 20 bases in a season, and has only stolen 10 in his nearly two years in the A's organization. He's not a Juan Pierre-type guy who can simply hit the ball on the ground and run. No, Cardenas needs to hit liners to be much of a hitter. Grounders go for hits about 26% of the time, while liners fall in at around a 72% clip.
Cardenas had a 22.1% liner rate in Double-A last year. That fell to 11.8% in Sacramento and 17.9% this year. Even a drop from 22.1% to 17.9%, though, is very significant, given that 72% rate. That 4.2% drop, when multiplied by .72, means about a .030 drop in batting average by itself, which is very significant.
At least Cardenas is showing a decent approach and good contact skills. All he has to do is simply make harder contact. And, thankfully, he's got some time to figure that out, as he'll play all of 2010 at age 22.
It's also good to see the improvement from the 11.8% liner rate in Sacramento last year to 17.9% this year. That means that Cardenas' current .225 batting average is probably a small-sample fluke—he deserves something more in the .250-.260 range.
So there's some reason for optimism. But even if Cardenas ultimately can get back to being something like a .300/.375/.400 hitter, what can we expect from him in the majors?
Well, he's not going to have major strikeout issues, and he'll walk a decent amount. Still, Cardenas is just a career .408 slugger in the minors with a .113 Isolated Power and just 21 homers in five years—his power isn't going to carry him. Neither is his speed, as I mentioned before.
Offensively, Cardenas' ultimate value really comes down to the line drives. If he can rip the ball all over the park, he could become a very solid offensive contributor. If not, he'll likely provide similar offense to current A's shortstop Cliff Pennington.
Unlike Pennington, however, Cardenas lacks the ability to play shortstop outside of an emergency situation, and is likely to settle in as an average-to-above-average defensive third baseman who can spot at second. At third base (or as a defensively challenged 2B), Cardenas is going to need to be a fairly solid hitter to be worth starting.
In essence, it really comes down to the line drives. If Cardenas can hit liners on 21% or more of his contact, he should be a viable starter who can hit around .300 with some walks and doubles. If he can't find a way to hit that many liners, he's probably more of a platoon player or utilty infielder, sort of like a lefty-swinging Adam Rosales.